Category Archives: Writing

Clowning Around For Life (A Story)

Against the serpentine and changing ocean shoreline, Bret curled his toes into the cool, textured sand. The sun disappeared over an hour ago, yet he still stood there, watching the lights of the beachside hotel and the occasional silhouette of a person moving in front of the lights. Elizabeth told him she’d be back in a few minutes so that they could take a walk along the shoreline.

He knew she was terrible with directions and often quickly lost her way. The hotel wasn’t THAT big, though. And it wasn’t THAT far away from the beach. As he turned and began walking towards the hotel, he could hear her voice calling.

Her voice was always a little higher than most. The modulation of the waves made her voice faintly waft toward him. He shook his head, wondering what mayhem her internal GPS had caused. He stopped and listened for her next shout. He heard her again when he walked around the building and the service area. A large block wall separated the parking lot. He laughed. Somehow, she had exited the hotel from the service exit and trapped herself between the walls.

“Hold on a second, Elizabeth!” he half-shouted.

“Bret? Get me out of here!” she shouted back, her voice going up another half-octave.

“Go back the way you came,” he offered. “I can’t see the opening. And quit laughing.” He laughed even harder.

“That’s what she said!” she added.

From the other side of the wall, she squealed with delight. “Heads up!”

Before he knew what was happening, a bucket flew over the wall.
Bret laughed again and shook his head.

“Sweetie, why did you just throw me a bucket?”

“Duh!” she replied incredulously. “So you can stand on it and climb over the wall to come get me, dumbass.”

Bret laughed hard. “Umm, you could have used the bucket to climb over the wall yourself, so who’s the dumbass now?”

“Damnit!” She yelled while giggling.

Bret grabbed the bucket and threw it over without any warning. He turned and walked fast around the corner, turning to gain access to the barrier. When Bret rounded the corner, Elizabeth was up against the high brick wall, turned sideways, reaching to get her fingers across the upper edge. He carefully walked up behind her and goosed on the back of her upper right thigh.

One leg kicked backward, pushing the bucket away while her knee jerked forward, hitting Bret in the nose and knocking him to the ground. Her crotch landed directly above his broken, bloody nose. He still managed to laugh and smile and say, “Nice landing!” which made her howl with laughter at the absurdity of the situation.

As Bret stood up, the blood ran down his chin. “Let’s go to the ocean,” he said and laughed.

Elizabeth knew he wasn’t joking, so they walked hand-in-hand around the wall and back toward the waves. Bret’s other hand gripped each side of his painful, oozing nose. They didn’t stop at the shoreline. They continued to step out into the gentle waves until the water was at their knees. Bret leaned over and washed his face as best as he could. They both could only imagine what someone watching might think. Neither cared. That was one of their superpowers. Bret stood up and circled his arm around her waist, pulling her close. They’d go back inside in a few minutes to see about Bret’s nose.

When they woke up the following day, Bret’s nose was very swollen, and he had two black eyes. Elizabeth took one look at him and began laughing uncontrollably.

“That bad, huh?” Bret asked.

“I’m sorry to be laughing so hard! I know that has to hurt! I was just thinking about all the stories we’ll be able to make up to tell people why you have black eyes in our wedding pictures!!!” Tears were running down her face because she was laughing so hard.

“We could have someone be a stand-in for the pictures!” Bret replied. “Is that hot guy from your favorite show available?” He laughed.

“No, I already called his agent. You’re stuck! Besides, you look kind of hot with those black eyes. Bad boy, even. It could be a knee-jerk reaction for me to say so, though,” she added wryly.

“Oh, I’ll give you a knee-jerk reaction, all right,” Bret replied as he rolled over on Elizabeth and gave her a quick kiss, mumbling, “a wee-nee jerk reaction!”

Elizabeth laughed. The weenie joke was one of her favorites, even though it was so stupid and old. It made her laugh every time they used it.

That evening during their beachside wedding ceremony, Elizabeth kept giggling. Bret thought she was tickled at the two witnesses he found that agreed to be there for their wedding. Witnesses that she did not even see before the ceremony. One dressed in an inflatable T-Rex costume, and the other was a clown. He wouldn’t put it past her to use a fake marriage officiant, either. The pastor laughed when Bret leaned in and whispered, “This is a legal marriage, isn’t it?” The clergy replied, “Lord help you if it isn’t.”

Elizabeth giggled out her vows and “I do.”

Bret knew the clown and dinosaur were funny, but not THAT funny. She had tears streaming down her eyes from holding back laughter.

After their first kiss as husband and wife, Elizabeth let out a massive howl of laughter and bent over at her waist to catch her breath. Bret had never seen her laugh that hard.

“Do I have a big booger on the end of my nose or something??” asked Bret.

Elizabeth waved her hands and shook her head no. She was still laughing too hard to speak. Finally, she pointed down.

Bret looked at the bottom of her dress.

She slowly raised it to reveal that she was wearing a ginormous pair of clown shoes and rainbow stockings under her elegant, white dress.

She had also hidden two clown noses in her bouquet for a few pictures after the ceremony.

“Something else that kept getting me tickled was that I noticed how the colors of the sunset matched the colors of your black eyes!!!!” as she roared with laughter again.

During their wedding dinner that night, which was Pizza Hut pizza-of course!-they hatched a plan.

They would send out their wedding picture as their Christmas card this year. Each card would have a different story explaining why Bret had black eyes and a swollen nose in the picture.

When December came around, their stories ranged from a seagull attack, that he wanted his eye shadow to match the colors of the sunset, and “This is what happens to Bret when he tries to use his hemorrhoid cream as a moisturizer.”

I think these two are going to be just fine.
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just a chair

the chair too teensy

yet made immense by enthusiasm

(like life)

eleven elbows and twelve knees, it seemed

i paid a burdened price for my gaffes

yet decided to surrender to yes

instincts certain, my mind girded with laughter

fused into the chair

interlocking and surprising pieces

murmurs, whispers

time postponed yet winged

the chair, both metaphor and corporeal

you can fit if you will it

you can find a place for your too much or extra

and let the river of wrong

flow anew

just sit

Scenes From a Country Church (A Story)

Josh drove along the country road, the smile on his face wrinkling its way up to his eyes. Next to him, Susie sang with abandon, her voice exuberantly mouthing the words to the Billy Joel song on the car’s media center. It was a song Josh knew well. He once disliked the song but loved hearing Susie sing it. She didn’t know that he hadn’t been a fan. Josh wanted her to sing it every time she heard it. He didn’t need to appreciate the song to love the person accompanying it. Susie didn’t know that the song was Billy’s favorite of all his songs.

Before their second date, Josh spent hours learning everything he could about Billy Joel. Susie shared a fascination with trivia and details about people’s lives. Susie listened in wonder as Josh recited all the facts that he’d learned about Billy Joel: that he had been a boxer and quit after his nose got brutally broken, that his ancestors were Jewish but that he had attended a Catholic school, only to end up as an atheist. Susie was horrified to learn that Billy also suffered from depression and attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish. She laughed in delight when Josh told her that Billy’s success came after failing to end his life.

“I learned to play the piano when I was very young, just like Billy,” he had told Susie. She raised her eyebrows in dubious surprise. “I hated it then but learned that music was as much a part of me as breathing. My mom told me that music would keep me sane. She was right. I can’t sing to save my life, though.”

Susie laughed. “We will see about that,” she mysteriously told him.

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“Where are we going, Josh?” Susie laughed as she stopped singing long enough to utter the question.

“You’ll see. It’s a beautiful drive. Just sing a little more. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Josh smiled and kept driving.

The road became less maintained as he drove. Fences that were previously metal became loose barbed wire, and the number of houses decreased precipitously.

As he neared the old country church, he slowed and turned between the narrow confines of the ditch on either side. The church stood against a backdrop of old trees. The white steeple looked brilliant against the intermittent sun that peeked through the clouds.

“It’s beautiful, Josh. I love old churches!” She almost squealed. Her enthusiasm always bubbled up.

“I know. That’s why we’re here.” He pulled up closer to the church and shut off the engine.

“Want to go inside? I have a key.” He grinned.

“You have a key? Wow. Of course I want to go in.” Susie immediately opened her door and jumped out of the car.

Josh scrambled to undo his seat belt and follow her. She was already walking up the few steps to the door by the time he exited the car.

As he walked up to her, Susie turned and gave him a light peck on the lips. Josh laughed. Her affection still caught him off guard. He’d spent a lot of his life imagining what such attention would evoke.

Josh unlocked the door with the large key in his jacket pocket. He pulled the door open, and Susie darted in ahead of him. He shook his head in amusement.

As he entered, he flipped on the lights. The inside of the church flooded with sudden illumination. The wooden pews shone with the proof that someone still took the time to polish them. The wood smelled divine.

Josh took Susie’s hand and led her to the front pew. Her fingers folded effortlessly around his.

“Sit here, Susie.” Josh gestured to the front pew. A single piece of dark chocolate lay on the bench. Susie looked at Josh in surprise, realizing he’d planned this. Her eyes grew wide, and she smiled. She said nothing as she sat on the pew. She picked up the piece of candy, unwrapped it, and savored the bitter flavor as she chewed it. She nodded.

Josh bowed toward her as he turned. Both of them smiled. The church was quiet as Josh’s feet echoed faintly on the wooden floorboards. He walked behind the small altar and to the right. He sat at the old organ and looked at Susie.

“Did you know that Billy Joel considered himself a better organist than a pianist, Susie?” Susie shook her head “no.”

“I do too. And this one is slightly out of tune. I love the way it sounds. Imperfect enough to give this song the new life it deserves.”

Josh’s fingers began to play. Instead of the expected four bars of notes to precede the lyrics, he played an improvised version, much like Billy loves to do at his concerts. He looked over at Susie as he began. He was delighted to see that she was slightly shocked. The sound of the old organ flooded the church with melody and life.

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead,” Josh sang, his voice cracking with emotion. Susie clapped in delight.

Josh continued to play and sing, his audience of one feeling the emotion he brought to the song. Time stopped as the wood structure of the church filled with melody and vibrated.

He played an improvised closing melody that faded into a hum as he finished the lyrics. “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” had never been played with so much love by someone who once thought it was a terrible song.

Susie had tears across her face as she sat in the pew in front of Josh. She smiled.

“Look under the pew, Susie. I left another surprise for you.”

As Susie locked eyes with Josh, she already knew what awaited.
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I won’t tell you what happened next. If you’re full of life, you already know. You can smell the wood, feel the melody as it dissipates. And you can imagine Josh and Susie and the life that followed them out of the church.

Try This On For Sighs

Well, I wrote a country song, if you can believe it. The song is just banjo, piano, and guitar; the guitar is loosely tuned to mimic a banjo’s jangly feel. It’s an imagined moment, making it more tangible than a memory. One of these days, I will sing it, though your ears might protest.

Try This On For Sighs

I turned on the radio, hearing lyrics nostalgic and free
Conway, George, and Charlie telling us simple stories
invoking us to live by life’s happy and simple decree

family to give us community
friends to give us companionship
and one to share our vulnerable soul

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

I walked by the closet, you standing like a dare
facing the mirror, nimble bare feet on the floor
black dress draped against your body, shoulders bare

the memory of your departed mom flooding your candid eyes
I could picture both of you silhouetted there, and still
your shared beauty an ongoing and persistent surprise

your chin and neck trembled with the painful past
you turned and smiled willfully in my direction
knowing I witnessed the overlap of time, recast

you tossed the garment aside, your eyes locked and wide
“Come here, and try this on for sighs,” you whispered
as the invisible music played, our bodies erased the divide

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

In the small space of a closet, time slowed, then stopped
as we laughed, elbows bumping as we twirled
in that closet, the entire volume of the world

….as we sang…

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

A Series Of Anecdotes

Yesterday afternoon, as I exited the inconvenience store with a banana and a knock-off brand of Takis, I saw the older gentleman lift the cigarette receptacle off and run his good hand through the pile of old butts there. His other hand was bandaged from above his wrist over his fingers.

I went back inside and came out with cigarettes. I handed them to him.

“Whoa. My son is two hours late picking me up. I’m not going to lie. I’m dying for a cigarette!” He looked at me sheepishly.

“In that case, have twenty,” I said and laughed.
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Standing in line at Harps, I was fascinated by the woman in front of me. She was probably in her late 70s, dressed in frayed-bottom pants, a white jacket with bats, converse-style sneakers, and her hair was done up in a dazzling pile of twists and a red band. Her eye shadow was surprisingly dark, and her lashes were long. I could tell that she was interesting. For whatever reason, she needed to pay for her items in three batches, so I watched the clerk impatiently adjust. I could hear the audible exasperation of the person behind me in line. When the woman spoke, her voice surprised me. It was at least two octaves higher than what I expected, like a voice strained through piano wire. She piled her three orders into her cart and exited the store. As I put my groceries in the so-called trunk of my little car, I saw that she was loading her items into the trunk of a luxury car. Before I stopped myself, I walked over across the two aisles and stood about fifteen feet away from her. “Ma’am?” She turned, her eyes open and curious. “I just wanted to say that I love your style and that I think you’re beautiful.” She smiled, even though she wore a mask. The smile went up into her eyes. She laughed. She nodded and said in her peculiarly high voice, “Thank you, that made my day! No, my month!” We both laughed. I walked back to my car, curious about the woman with the colorful and vivid sense of style and superbly high voice. Another interesting person I’ll never know.
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Paraphrasing, someone wrote me and asked me, “…why I thought everyone should see into my past life and from my point of view…” The weirdness of the question threw me off a bit. Is there another way to write about one’s life? Or from whose point of view should I write? Of course I write from my point of view! Implicit in everything I write is the idea that it’s my own opinion. There’s no escaping I’m prone to revisionism or self-imposed blinders to my stupidity at times. We all are. Equally valid is that I’m often the first to admit I’ve done something stupid. Previously, I wrote a post titled “Get Your Own Soapbox.” All of us have the option to share or not. We all have the option of using social media platforms, whichever we enjoy, ones that allow us to share in whatever capacity we’re comfortable. We have access to the internet, blogs, YouTube, and countless other means to express ourselves. As for me, I make an effort to avoid needlessly bludgeoning across moving lines of privacy and telling my story. Anyone who reads what I write can see that I make a concerted effort. It is a mistake to ask anyone to refrain from telling their story because it makes you uncomfortable. You have to trust that the people in your life will respect the boundaries and expectations they’ve created. All social media is like television. Change the station if you don’t want to see it. Fighting other people’s opinions seldom leads to a happy resolution. In some stories, you’re a villain. In others, a kind soul. If you live a great life, such a distinction won’t afflict you much. Life takes too much energy and effort to look over one’s shoulder constantly. Even if you live a perfect life, someone’s going to question your life, your motives, or your ideas. That’s in part because there is no single way to live one’s life and live it well.

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Today, I got another reminder that people are inscrutable. It’s just a fact of life that some people don’t like others having a good time when they aren’t happy or able to do the same. Both sets of people can be in the same environment, yet some are satisfied and happy, and some are miserable. Infrequently, I run up against people who resent that I find ways all day to enjoy the zaniness of things. And if there are no interesting things? I make them. I can’t turn it off. Those who go out of their way to impede others from enjoying themselves seldom realize that their actions and attitude convey their own unhappiness. They do NOT appreciate it if it’s pointed out to them, either. Yes, I know this from experience. 🙂 happiness or fun is not a zero-sum game. It can be created infinitely. Just like love, if you are receptive. For those people who try to stifle me, I feel sorry for them. Instead of focusing on others, just a little bit of that same energy transposed into being more creative for themselves would transform their days. It is one of the reasons I annoy people by saying that I don’t know what boredom is.
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“You can kick your feet but not your neighbor” is both a call to energy and happiness even when you experience a setback, but also a tacit reminder to be nice in the process of your day.
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“Routine saves us. Lunacy revives us.” – X
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“A box fan is one of the best intruder/break-in devices ever created. It won’t stop the break-in, but it will keep you from hearing it.” – X
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“Gambling is only a problem if you’re not winning. It seems obvious. We use the outcome to determine objectionability when in reality, it is the act itself.” – X

Love, X

hallelujah, hallelujah

I haven’t finished the melody, but I wrote this song, something I haven’t done in a long time. When I finished, I realized that it could be both spiritual plea or a personal promise. For those whose lives are filled with God, let that be your premise. For those who love, may this be your optimism and purposeful promise of anticipation of another day. And for those souls who have both? Stand together and watch the sunrise, if you can.

Or the sunset. And be renewed. – X
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hallelujah hallelujah

I shall never know if you’re listening
only that I’m whispering the words

That my life not be made easier
only fuller and always in anticipation

I don’t want to know the obstacles
nor the slap of who will precede me

only that I’ll have one more variable day
before the shadows grow feet and approach me

I make this unrequested promise to you
let me arise and see the sunrise, anew

just one more time, one more snapshot
another measure of loving enduring optimism

and if you do, I vow to sing

hallelujah, hallelujah

not for me, but for you

hallelujah, hallelujah

I shall never know if you’re listening
only that I’m whispering the words

hallelujah, hallelujah
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Love, X
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P.S. The picture is two superimposed pictures of a man celebrating both sunrise and sunset. Because the sun never sets upon the Earth, only upon our eyes. So much of us is limited to our narrow perspective, and we grow to trust only the things we can touch – instead of the things we can feel and experience.

Never Veer

I love sharing on social media. I do. It’s personal, revelatory, and I try to be honest without stepping on people. I tend to step on myself the hardest.

I learned to play the game of Chicken with my crazy dad. Do you know what his secret was? NEVER veer, even if you’re going to get killed. He told people beforehand, “I’m not going to veer. I’m not kidding.” And he never did, even when it could have killed him. People learned not to play Chicken with Bobby Dean. Not in cars, not on tractors, not ever. Never veering is a stupid way to play chicken – unless your goal is to stop people from challenging you. There is no truth I will not confide if it is in my heart to do so.

I wrote very personal posts on the 23rd and yesterday. Both were honest and revelatory. The one from the 23rd was an admission that I’m as guilty as anyone about being a revisionist. I’ve not hurtfully crossed the line needlessly about anyone – including my ex-wife. That’s not to say I couldn’t. Two of the components of my post were to mention that I appreciated the good years, as well as to mention that I could have engaged in a flame war during the divorce, even though I bore the responsibility for the mess. It’s okay to need to gain perspective and distance. Even if it makes me the villain. It’s not okay to wipe away the good times, the good things, or the concessions I made to mitigate my self-made disaster.

With my level of humor and stark, combined with my willingness and ability to literally say anything, it would be manifestly easy for me to shatter a lot of illusions and break eggs. Even while still admitting I’ve behaved like a lunatic at times. I’ve been considerate after-the-fact. I can’t erase the past. It’s unwise to argue with someone who buys ink by the gallon, or with someone who will respond to accusations by admitting even worse truths himself. No one can win a “let’s share secrets” war with me. I will go there – not out of spite, no matter how someone pushes me to inflame or respond to fire with fire. It’s a fool’s game, especially after the final whistle has blown. The players should exit the field, hopefully with the goal of learning from what happened. Even if they fouled forty times during the game. An examined life always yields lessons.

People trust me not to reveal secrets they share. Believe me, one of the most satisfying aspects of social media is that many people have shared some of the most intimate things possible using it.

As you’d guess, I caught hell privately for the things I shared. Even the post about my wife who died brought out a level of accusation that surprised me. None of those accusations touch the truth, though. Everyone was kind, loving, and supportive to me for both posts. Well, almost everyone. And I love that. Worrying about the critics is another fool’s errand. Because I’m a fool, I’ve been guilty of that at times.

“You’re the villain in someone’s story” has always been true.

Equally true is that telling me I can’t tell my story isn’t going to end well. I’ll be respectful – but not silent. Trust me to be both honest and responsible.

If you play Chicken with me, I will not veer, now or ever.

Love, X

Deanne

things often go awry, as they so often do
that unimaginable morning, it was you

nine years my junior, with a lingering cough
your energy ebbed and your spirit diminished

i watched my love and life wither
it can’t get that bad, i foolishy hoped

life had a hard lesson for me, again

i sat on the floor next to you
our albino cat standing guard,
as he had all night
before i made the horrible call

life had fled, from you, from me

promises made, hopes shared
became mist and floated away

a little piece of me stayed there, forever

another piece of me, the vibrancy you shared
found a way forward

i can’t believe i’m still standing
filled with love, expanding

sometimes, in moments
i’m back there, remembering the lesson

you said i was love
even in impatience
“my muffin,” you teased
and I? pleased

i try to remember the helplessness
hopelessness and despair

not to drown in them, no

but to live the knowledge
that we’re all closer than we think

it’s all here or gone in a blink

in those crevices of experience
we thrive or subside

with each new self-genesis
i take a long moment
to swallow the risk

and i remember

life knocks, i answer

it is not a question

it is life, moving

Love, X
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